Each service assumes that baptism should normally be administered in a public context. The rubric before the first service says that this should be 'when the most number of people come together', and advises how to incorporate Baptism into Morning or Evening Prayer.

Two related reasons are given for this:

  • so that 'the congregation there present may testify the receiving of them that be newly baptized into the number of Christ's Church', 
  • because in the Baptism of Infants 'every man present may be put in remembrance of his own profession to God made in his Baptism'. 
When ministers choose to administer baptism at other times, they need to consider how these two aims can be fulfilled.

This horizontal or congregational aspect of baptism is identified in Article 27, when it is stated that baptism is 'a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened'.

In the Prayer Book services, this is particularly expresse

  • when the vows are made before the congregation, 
  • when the teaching of the Creed is affirmed, 
  • when the person baptized is marked with the sign of the cross and received 'into the congregation of Christ's flock'.

Baptism is a testimony to the faith and commitment of the person being baptized or, in the case of infant baptism, a testimony to the faith and commitment of the sponsors.

Much discussion has taken place about the role of godparents in the baptism of infants. The genuineness of their commitment to Christ in bringing their godchild to baptism is assumed when the service asks them to make the vows 'in the name of this child'.

There are biblical reasons for suggesting that parents should actually be the sponsors and believing relatives or friends their supporters in this role. The covenantal promise to families in Acts 2:38-39 ('for you and your children') anticipates the practice of baptizing households in Acts 16:15, 31-3; 18:8. Believing parents can grasp the promises of the gospel for their children and make vows for them on the basis of their own faith and determination to bring up their children 'in the discipline and instruction of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:4).

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